Editor’s note: Lovefraud received this e-mail from a reader who we’ll call Loralei. At the end of her e-mail, I’ll comment on it.
When I was young, I was emotionally and physically abused by my mother. She didn’t give me any black eyes, but I did get slapped, my hair pulled, and it was clear that the world revolved around my mother. I lived in fear, and when I wasn’t the target of her anger, I was ignored.
Fast forward 40 years. I am a successful businesswoman, I live in a nice Chicago suburb, I have friends, I like to help people, and I was tired of not having a love life. For some goofy reason, I posted an ad on Craigslist; I met a really handsome guy named Robert. He said he was a banker, he also said he just got back from Iraq (that he was in the army), he was well dressed, he said he was “going through” a divorce, and he seemed articulate, and nice. We quickly moved into a sexual relationship.
I noticed some odd things. His communication was primarily email or text messages. It was extremely abrupt – no mention of feelings – just very minimal, concise, fact based conversations. And he was a white collar professional (a banker), but he said he just got back from Iraq? He didn’t have a buzz haircut, and he didn’t look terribly in shape.
Checking him out
While I thought I struck the goldmine, an inner voice told me I should check things out. I found that he didn’t live in the town that he said he lived in. I found that he wasn’t “going through” a divorce, but in fact he was already divorced. And I wrote to the military, and found out, yes, he was in the Army, but that was 20 years ago when he was a college student, and he was NEVER in Iraq.
Over the course of weeks and months I learned more. He actually lived in the same home with his ex-wife and their children.
Then he took a business trip, and he told me he took an extra day or two to go to West Point to visit his Army friends (well, of course I knew he never went to West Point) so I snooped and I found that he went to stay for a weekend at a romantic bed and breakfast with another woman. He took other business trips. I was suspicious, and I placed ads on Craigslist under the romantic encounter section in the city he was visiting. Sure enough, he was replying to those ads trying to stir up a one-night stand. Both times I was crushed, I told him straight up he was busted.
Kept falling for him
Yet, stupidly, over the course of weeks and months, I kept falling for this guy. He texted me every morning, “GM,” and every night, “GN,” we emailed and texted all day, we laughed, we flirted. We saw each other periodically, and he was attentive, and kind, and fun, and complimented me and held my hand, and was unfailingly polite. The visits were always during business hours. Why would that be, if he was divorced?
I confronted him with lie after lie. Some he acknowledged, some he ignored. The lies continued, along with the continued flirting, continued sex. I was baffled. I cried all the time. We would have incredible sex, it lasted 4 – 6- 8 hours and then there would be nothing for a whole month. I felt abused. I would tell him how I felt, he said he loved me, but nothing in his behavior changed. He would show no empathy at all. A woman called my home looking for him once – she said they had made plans to meet, and she wondered where he was. I didn’t understand. At one point I was so desperate I reached out to his ex-wife. I asked her if she was still sleeping with him. Her voice got really meek and scared-like, and she said she wasn’t sleeping with him. I thought it was really weird. But it told me she obviously knew about everything, and wanted to bury her head in the sand.
Couldn’t leave him
I tried to break up with him in May of 2009. I cried again. He was distressed. He said he knew he was shallow, he knew he was selfish, and he wanted me to stay. I felt bad, couldn’t leave him. We went back and forth and back and forth for about a year. I would leave him, then he would text me and make me pity him, and I’d go back. Then he would ignore me, and then, before I knew it, we’d be back together again.
It was a very addictive relationship. That fall he introduced me to a bunch of his colleagues as his “wife.” And he took me on a trip to Seattle on a train, and whispered in my ear how everybody could clearly see how in love we were. Were we in love? How could that be, if he spends every night and every weekend with his ex-wife? He said it was his favorite daydream to imagine me being his wife.
I couldn’t understand it. How could a nice, polite, educated man lie to me? So I read books. I read about avoidant personality disorder. I read about psychopathy, antisocial personality disorder, I read about anxiety disorders, I must have read 25 psych books. I read, “When your lover is a liar” and every other book out there.
So do I believe his words? They’re inconsistent. Do I believe his actions? They’re inconsistent too.
I began therapy, and I began to see how the way he was treating me was similar to the way my mother treated me. I invited the abuse on myself, apparently repeating a cycle I learned in childhood. Somehow I got strong enough to finally push away from him. The first few weeks I felt like I was going to die. Every day I think about him, and nearly every day I feel rage, I feel raped. I can’t believe I kept making excuses for him. I can’t believe I got sucked into this fantasy. I wanted him to be the guy of my dreams, but he’s nothing but a fraud. A lovefraud.
My comments: This is a classic Lovefraud story
Loralei’s story has every typical element of a sociopathic relationship. It is a classic Lovefraud story.
First of all, Loralei was abused by her mother. Anyone who has abuse in their history is susceptible to more abuse. The traumatic bonding that takes place during these relationships makes the dynamic of abuse feel normal.
Loralei, I strongly recommend that you read The Betrayal Bond, by Patrick J. Carnes, Ph.D. (available on the Lovefraud Store). It explains how abusive relationships affect you, and why it can be difficult to leave them.
Secondly, Loralei’s intuition was working. “An inner voice told me I should check things out,” she wrote. So she did. And she found out that the guy was lying to her. But she continued to see him anyway.
Why? Because Loralei was already addicted to the relationship.
Relationships with sociopaths are highly addictive. The relationships cause psychological and chemical changes in the brain that make victims feel bonded to the sociopath.
This is especially true when sex is involved. Sex enhances the natural human bonding process—it’s nature’s way of keeping people together to care for children. It doesn’t seem to affect sociopaths—sociopaths are famous for their callous promiscuity. But partners of sociopaths, who feel normal bonding, become attached. That’s why Loralei couldn’t leave him.
So how can Loralei get out of a relationship with a sociopath? She must treat it as the addiction that it is. She must cut off all contact with the guy, cold turkey. No e-mails. No texts. No phone calls. And certainly no get-togethers. Loralei must take it one day at a time. Get through today. Then tomorrow. Then the next day.
If Loralei gives in to her addiction and has contact with him, it will be like a medical relapse, and she’ll have to start all over again. But if she can maintain no contact, each day she’ll get stronger, and his hold on her will be less.
But here’s the most important part of this classic Lovefraud story. As awful as this relationship was, it has a nugget of gold in it. This lying, cheating abuser has brought to the surface Loralei’s original emotional wound—the abuse of her mother. Now, she has the opportunity to process and let go of that deep, awful pain.
Loralei, look at the gift of this situation. Give yourself time and permission to heal. You can do it. And eventually, if you want, you’ll be able to attract a healthy, satisfying relationship.